Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ArtPrize gets it right

"Intersections" by Anila Quayyum Aghawon
won the people's vote and split the juried vote.
(Ignore the purple light - that was an inartistic
side effect of the camera flash.)
This was the sixth year that I’ve been to Art Prize in Grand Rapids. Artists from around the world enter their artwork for a chance to win the $200,000 top prize voted on by the public. In total, about 1,500 are accepted into the event and hundreds of thousands of people walk the city to see this fantastic array of art: from steel structures of beasts to intricate woodcarvings and plant-based artwork.
With each year of this masterful exhibit, the “way finding” gets easier. It’s not just because I’ve been there before, it’s also because the printed maps of the exhibits are getting better.
Isn’t it amazing how good organization can make a special event even more special? It’s easier to find the works of art. There is less getting lost or wandering to places where not much is showing. With about 15 miles worth of walking to see the whole show, it is extremely helpful to know where you are going with an idea of what you will see.
One of the best maps this year was a two-sided piece that showed the top 20 artworks on the front with a key of where each was located. It helped that some of the larger buildings hosted more than one “top 20.” While I wish that I had produced that map with my graphic design team, I know that it took brainstorming and many renditions to get it right.
What this good organization meant to me is that my friend and I saw nearly the entire top 20 in about four hours – a long afternoon. In the past, another friend and I wandered around trying to find the top artwork as we consulted a map that was far less graphic and detailed.
I am an organized person. There were times when I thought that being organized was boring. Wouldn’t it be more exciting to shake things up and try to find things as if one were in a road rally? Not really. Being organized makes things run smoother.

Good organization for printed materials and websites can mean a tremendous difference in the user experience. Being able to find things easily and drill down into the subsets of an item take you where you want to go – seemingly effortlessly. That’s because all of the effort was put in at the front-end to keep things flowing smoothly and easy to find for the user.
Think about that the next time you are tasked with a big, audacious, voluminous job – whether it’s a website, a report, an info-graphic, or a map. Breaking it down into an organized fashion can be done with some fairly easy grouping measures.
Here are 5 ways to produce an organized, effective marketing piece for print or websites:
1. Color-code groups of similar items or locations, so users can see them at a glance.
2. Group related items together – e.g. indoor art on one side of the flier and outdoor art on the other (this was done on an ArtPrize postcard that served as a guide)
3. Don’t just bullet-point items, number them. Remember how easy it is to order from a Chinese menu when you can say, “I’ll have #22.”
4. Drill down. Have an umbrella term for an item and group related items in that category. For example, when I work on a project, I’ve got individual electronic folders for background information, interviews, drafts and final copy – all tucked into a master folder with the name of the project. Use this tactic for website subheads.
5. Be intuitive where you place items in print or in a website. Just like you might hang a key hook by your back door, it helps to put items where people typically look for them. If you’ve got a detailed file on one page with symbols linked to a key, don’t make readers turn the page to find the key. Group them together, so it’s a simple glance up and down on the page. Think of road maps and how the legend is on the same side as the map.

What are your tricks for staying organized in print, websites or online projects? Another item to think about – can you recall an event that you attended that was easy to navigate due to the signage, graphics or way-finding maps or fliers? (Think zoos, museums, parks and concerts.) And lastly, if you attended ArtPrize, what did you enjoy most about it?

Photos by Liz Cezat. Art by some amazingly talented artists.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Enjoy the wealth of making a connection

Making connections comes naturally for people who belong to Toastmasters,
including Ray Metz and Harold Vroman. Photo by Liz Cezat.

One of the most pleasing aspects of life is to make a genuine connection with the people around you. No matter what your circumstances – rich, poor, sick, healthy, young, old or middle-aged – if you can relate to people in a humane and compassionate manner, you are golden and so are the people you come in contact with.
The connections go beyond words; they encompass actions and attitudes. It could be an 80-year-old grandmother, whose eyes crinkle with delight when you tell her how pretty she looks in her pink sweater. Or an infant just 8 days old, whose tiny fingers grasp yours as you bend down close and gaze into her eyes. It could be a janitor at a shopping mall who is listening to a Tigers’ game that prompts you to comment about the team’s winning streak – bringing a wide smile to his face. It could be an agency intern doing on-site work at your corporate location who appears to lack confidence; yet when you tell her that you appreciate her efforts, there’s a glow of delighted surprise on her face as she stands up taller.
My grand daughter Ellie being held for the
first time by fellow grand parent Mike Schultz.
Photo by Liz Cezat.

These are small interactions yet they allow us the opportunity to practice kindness and courtesy, and show genuine love for each other.
Take a moment to really interact with people in your life. Not just family and friends, but strangers – people who seemingly are totally different than you. I think you will find that when you reach out and touch someone: with kind words, holding a door open for them to pass through, or simply smiling, you will find real treasure.
Give it a try and report back on your experience. Don’t let shyness or being introverted stop you – seek to make a connection with real people today and every day.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Would you like some art with your message?

Maybe it’s the art lover in me, but I respond much better to a message or article when accompanied by a graphic image or photograph. The interplay between words and images is a compelling combination. Each reinforces the other.

Graphics and photos add dazzle and depth to brochures. They make marketing postcards pop. Photos especially bring a story to life in annual reports. Graphics on websites underscore the intent and draw the reader in. It’s an immersive experience. Imagine you are walking into a forest. You see the trees (the copy) yet you also see the canopy (the art that frames the message).

Recently, I saw a special exhibit at the National Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. It was by Andrew Wyeth, an American artist (1917-2009) whom I wasn’t familiar with. I was with a friend who had taken art history in college and knew a lot about the artist (see accompanying photo.) I learned much from her shared history.

I relish looking at paintings and trying to discover the artist’s intent. Yet, I find it helpful to have a bit of lore to enhance my appreciation. Viewing the artwork and reading about it are both visual actions, yet combined they become a multi-sensory experience.

Andrew Wyeth, special exhibit: National Gallery of Art
As a communications consultant, I thrive when working on projects that require me to tell a story; reveal someone’s personality and passion through a profile; explain the benefits and features of a service; or make the case for a worthy cause that compels donors to support the vision. Much of these projects are copy intensive; yet there are ways to add an image (photos or graphics) that deepens the message.

Think of what these art elements (aka: visual information) could do for your next white paper. Many people don’t gravitate toward white papers because there’s all that ink on white paper. Yes, you’ll learn something but it also tends to be a rather tedious experience. My team and I can make white papers more compelling with imagery that reinforces the message.

Graphics alone: think logos, are pure visual communication. Yet, when graphics need to be paired with their partner: words, my designers are masters at adding perception to your message, stories and corporate reports.

Please share your experience about how the interplay between words and graphics motivated you or prompted you to take action.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ramp up your business etiquette

From my experience as a business owner of marketing, writing and design services, I believe that business professionals in southeastern Michigan need to ramp up their Northern charm and Midwestern good manners when it comes to returning phone calls and replying to e-mails.
Small business owners and entrepreneurs are heralded as the job creators and courageous warriors of commerce, yet the treatment that we receive from many prospects is not conducive to business.
I implore those of you who ignore phone calls and delete e-mails that have a legitimate request behind them (aka: not spam) to ramp up your business etiquette. Practice common courtesy when it comes to replying to phone calls and e-mails from those who don’t work in your company and are asking for your business, a referral or a favor.
Too many professionals leave callers and e-mail inquiries hanging. If it’s a legitimate call – even if it’s a cold call for business – please have the courtesy of at least sending an e-mail saying: 1.) I’m interested, please call; 2.) I might be interested, check back (state a day/time) or 3.) I’m not interested, but thanks for asking.
Most astute cold callers for professional services will include an e-mail and website so you can check out the company before responding.
My clients, trusted associates and best prospects are not included in this diatribe. I treasure them for their business, assistance and ongoing support and kindness.
Those with high-powered jobs think they are in the driver’s seat. Yet, it often takes just one business cycle downturn, incompatible boss or market shake-up to be out of a job. The tables could be turned. What if you were looking for a job or business leads and no one took your call or responded to your e-mail?
I’ve already preached the Golden Rule to my kids – Treat others the way you want to be treated.  Now I have to remind the business community that it applies to their human interactions as well.
Rules of thumb for response time:
Primarily for VPs, directors, managers and those who need a refresher.
E-mail pitch for your business: If you have the time and interest, set up a phone call to learn more about the service. Based on those results, if you have an immediate or pending need for the service, set up a personal interview. If the caller (perhaps a business owner or associate) is convincing and the online presence is solid, hire the company to take on a smaller job to gauge the working relationship and results.
After a job interview: Respond to the interviewee’s personal thank-you note within one week (e-mail acknowledgement is fine). Respond to phone calls within three to five days, even if you don’t know whether the interviewee has made it to the second round. If in doubt, have your HR department call or e-mail the interviewee.
• Request for an interview for a publication: Respond within three to five business days, and set up the interview as soon as possible, keeping in mind that you may receive copy to review before publication (for non-commercial media).
Job in progress with business owner or associate: Don’t let two to three days go by without responding to a job in progress. If you are dealing with a major personal or work crisis, or are out of the country, try to send a short e-mail or text noting that fact.

• Proposal in the works: It takes time to listen to the prospects’ concerns and write up a proposal for consideration. The courtesy of a response (“yes,” “no” or even “maybe”) is necessary to move ahead with the project, amend it or table it. Being decisive is an admirable business trait.
If you have pet peeves about business etiquette, please share them so we can all improve our game.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Can your internal team handle the project?

In the professional services arena, there are times when a major project you are asked to handle begins with the attitude, “I can do that – no problem.” But, over time the project morphs into a huge gorilla that dominates your thoughts. As a result, you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, you spend too many hours worrying about the project. It’s almost as if that big project is stalking you. Maybe it’s a website. It could be a major report designed to bring in new business or obtain additional funding. Perhaps it’s a marketing event or seminar – where content and branding must align. Maybe your staff needs to be trained in using social media to reflect well on your business or organization. 
Consider your team when starting a project.
Photo by Liz Cezat. Heard Museum, Phoenix, AZ

There could be several reasons for fear (or inaction) related to the project:
1.     It’s beyond your scope of expertise.
2.     You have the skills to do it, but don’t have time to complete it.
3.     You are a team of one, and you need the right people on board to make it happen.
4.     You have no interest in doing it. It’s outside your comfort zone of capability and you don’t have the time or patience for the learning curve.
5.     You’ve done it so many times, you want “fresh eyes” on the project. That way, you can take on new projects that do excite you.

To determine how you should approach this project, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do I have the right tools?
       2. Do I have people with the right skills to successfully complete the project?
       3. Have I set a realistic timeline for completion?
       4. Have I outlined the essential action steps from beginning to end?
       5. Do I have a realistic budget for this project?
       6. Once I complete the project, what benefits will my business or organization gain
           from it?
These are the essential questions that can put you in control when assessing whether to take on the project in-house or outsource it.
Above all, be realistic in what you can achieve. The right approach along with the right attitude can put you miles ahead in getting the project accomplished.
You can rely on the services of Cezat Creative Resources, Inc. to handle projects without the need for a retainer. We don’t rest on our laurels. Each project brings out our creative genius. We typically bill by the project, and welcome projects that are used for marketing, sales, training, fund-raising and overall communication. Our professional team handles writing and editing, graphic design, photography, website development and presentations. Take the first step: